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SEPC show in Nashville to highlight the latest innovations

By
Gordon M. Hochberg, editor emeritus

The Southeast Produce Council will highlight the latest innovations in the fresh produce industry at its Southern Innovations conference and trade show, set to take place Sept. 22-24 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, TN.

The event is expected to draw a sizeable number of attendees and a record number of exhibitors, according to David Sherrod, the council’s president and chief executive officer.

“We already have over 1,000 people registered for the conference,” Sherrod told The Produce News Monday, Aug. 29. “And out of the 1,000 people that are coming, over 250 are buyers. We’re keeping the show intimate, but the value proposition is going to be off the charts for this show.”

Laura Juarez
Laura Juarez

In addition, there will be 138 exhibitors, which is a record for Southern Innovations, he noted.

After the board of directors meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, the BOD/STEP-UPP dinner will take place Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Acme Feed & Seed Store, which has “a little bit of that Nashville flair as we open up the conference,” said Sherrod.

Southern Innovations gets fully under way the following day with committee meetings, a STEP-UPP team building experience, LINKS meetings and a meeting of the Board of Governors.

Southern Roots, the council’s leadership program for women in produce, will meet from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the General Jackson Showboat. Dan’l Mackey Almy and Megan Zweig of DMA Solutions Inc. will talk about the importance of self-awareness both personally and professionally. This will be a lively, interactive session focused on growth and networking.

Barbara Sayles
Barbara Sayles

“Then at 6:30 p.m., we’ll open things up with the Welcome Reception down at the Waters Edge, a good central location at the hotel,” said Sherrod. Singer-songwriter Carly Moffa, a former contestant on “American Idol,” will be performing.

Friday, Sept. 23, “is a busy, busy day,” said Sherrod, beginning with two educational sessions.

The first, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., is titled “Leading Today’s Superheroes.” This session will feature Laura Juarez, the creator of 10X Leadership Lab, a coaching and consulting practice dedicated to supporting middle market companies in achieving extraordinary results by aligning with purpose and values, creating strategy that inspires stakeholders and cultivating thriving cultures and high-performing leadership teams.

Larry Narwold
Larry Narwold

The second, from 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., features Anne-Marie Roerink. “She’ll be releasing an SEPC-funded report that she’s done for us called ‘What’s New from the Consumer View.’ We’ve funded this to find out some of the new trends, and is geared toward the innovation and technology sides,” said Sherrod.

Next up is the general session and keynote luncheon from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., where SEPC Chairman Raina Nelson “will be introducing a brand new program called the Next Generation Leadership Academy,” Sherrod said.

The keynote speaker will be Navy SEAL and author Rorke Denver, who will share his perspectives and lessons learned from the battlefield to help teams and individuals perform at higher levels.

“I’m excited about his message — that you have to sacrifice to become great; that’s a message that we love at the Southeast Produce Council,” said Sherrod. “It’s about being a servant. This fits in really well with who we are. We can’t wait to hear his message.”

Anne-Marie Roerink
Anne-Marie Roerink

The expo will take place from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. “We’ll really be highlighting innovations this year,” said the SEPC president. “We’re putting it center stage on the expo floor. At the Farm, In the Store, On the Menu and For the Planet: those four areas really encompass all of our stakeholders.”

He added, “This is going to be a key point for us this year and how we’re going to set this show apart in years to come.”

The Chairman’s Dinner Dance will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., featuring entertainment by Caitlyn Smith. “She’s a songwriter from Nashville who’s starting her own solo career, and we’re excited to get her right here at the beginning of that,” said Sherrod.

The council will present Lifetime Achievement Awards to two individuals: Larry Narwold, who led the SEPC board of directors from 2002 to 2004; and Barbara Sayles of the Society of St. Andrew. “She has done so much for the Southeast Produce Council and our charities,” noted Sherrod. “We call her Saint Barbara for a reason.”

Caitlyn Smith
Caitlyn Smith

The new slate of officers will also be introduced at the Chairman’s Dinner Dance. Outgoing Chairman Raina Nelson of Westfalia Fruit will hand the gavel to incoming Chairman Tim Graas of Associated Wholesale Grocers. He will be joined by Mike Roberts of Harps Food Stores as vice chairman, Kristin Yerecic Scott of Yerecic Label as secretary, and Sloan Lott of Bland Farms who joins the board as treasurer.

“This is always bittersweet,” said Sherrod, “as you lose a chairman but you gain a new board.”

Three always-popular events are set for Saturday, Sept. 24.

The Founders Memorial Golf Tournament will take place at the Gaylord Spring Golf Links, beginning at 7 a.m., and concluding with an Awards Luncheon from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. There are 144 golfers signed up this year, a full slate.

The Martin Eubanks Sporting Clays Classic will take place at the Nashville Gun Club, beginning at 9 a.m., with an Awards Luncheon from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. There are 70 people signed up this year.

A local tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., featuring a visit to The Hermitage, home of the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson.

The conference will end with the Ultimate Tailgate Experience, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., where everyone can cheer on their favorite team and enjoy some great snacks.

The council invites SEPC members to attend a prayer breakfast on Sunday morning from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

And for those who like to plan ahead, Southern Innovations 2024 will take place Sept. 13-17 in Charlotte, NC, a new venue for the council.

Gordon Hochberg

Gordon Hochberg

About Gordon M. Hochberg  |  email

Gordon M. Hochberg was born in New York City, and grew up in Westchester County, NY. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from Lafayette College in 1973.

He started his career at The Produce News in the late 1970s, and has been with the publication ever since.

He served on the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Agricultural Society from 2012 to 2018. He currently serves on the Southeast Produce Council’s Board of Governors.

He enjoys music, theater and reading (American and ancient history are his favorites). And he’s been a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees since attending his first game in the late 1950s. He and his wife, Kathi, have been married since 1974.

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